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August 11, 2019: Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner

Habemus magistrum Ordinis Praedicator! This past month, Dominicans from all regions of the world gathered in Biên Hòa, Vietnam in order to elect a new Master of the Order. In this 800-year-old democratic process, the Order of Preachers choose a Master to serve one nine-year term as the successor of St. Dominic.  The three representatives from our province were our Provincial, Fr. Christopher Fadok, together with Frs. Michael Sweeney and Peter Do. Just as the Pope is the successor of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ, so too, our Dominican Master leads the Order in following our Dominican vocation to “preach for the salvation of souls.” I am happy to announce that Fr. Gérard Francisco Timoner III was elected as Master General, the 88th successor of St. Dominic.  Fr. Gérard succeeds Fr. Bruno Cadoré who was delighted to pass the torch after his nine years of dedicated service. This was a historic election, since Fr. Gérard is the first Asian in the Order’s 800-year history to lead the brethren. Fr. Gérard was born in Camarines Norte, in the Philippines.  He is the former Provincial of the Philippine province and has also served as an assistant master on Asia/Pacific matters.  In addition, he was appointed in 2014 by Pope Francis as a member of the International Theological Commission in the Vatican, which advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Just as we were delighted to host Fr. Bruno when he came for the 800th Anniversary of our Order in 2016, so too we are eager to host Fr. Gérard when he comes for visitation some time during his term.  In an attempt to get to know the new Master, I’ve included recent interview of Fr. Gérard in which he explains how his election reflects the Church’s growth in Asia and discusses the main challenges he is going to face in his nine-year term. Enjoy!                             ~ Fr. Michael 

You are the first Asian leader in the more-than-800-year history of the Dominicans. And the fact that this general chapter was held in Vietnam also seems to be a signal of the order’s strong interest in Asia. What is Asia’s specific contribution to the Church and to the New Evangelization? 

Some brothers told me that their decision to elect a master from Asia is a sign that the order is leaning towards Asia. It is true. The emergence of Church leaders from Asia is a sign of the growth and maturity of the Church in this part of the world, which has a great number of people — China and India alone have more than 3 billion inhabitants! So, yes, we are citizens of our original countries, but we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God! Thus I am not comfortable with the idea that Asia and Africa are the “future” of the Church, as though Europe and America were its past or its present. The “future” of the Church is in any place where the Gospel needs to be heard, either because it is ignored in religiously indifferent societies or because the Gospel has not yet been adequately preached.  The future of the Church is also to be found in the young people who remain faithful to Christ.

In your acceptance speech, you confessed to have been reluctant to accept your new mission when you found out the result of the vote. How would you explain such a feeling? What will be the most difficult challenges of such a mission, as you see it?

True, I was reluctant to accept the election at first. I told the brothers that I have a big linguistic handicap because I speak just one of the three official languages of the order: I speak English, but not Spanish or French. I thought I was not as talented as my predecessors were, and I know that there were many qualified brothers present in this general chapter who speak all three, or at least two of the three, official languages.  I also felt I lacked the skills to solve the order’s problems. I am neither the brightest nor the bravest brother in the chapter. Thus, when the secretary general asked me to meet the capitulars [participants in the general chapter] after the vote, I thought I would be foolish to say “Yes” and accept the election. Yet it was not foolhardiness that made me accept. It was rather the brothers of the curia who talked sense into my confused head. From what I remember, here is what they said: “We all sincerely prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and the brothers decided in good conscience. Unless your house is burning, you have to go down, meet the capitulars and accept.” Another brother hugged me and told me, “You are not alone — we are here.” Then the brothers accompanied me in prayer at the chapel. And I knew I had to accept, in faith, their decision. 

Please keep the Dominicans and Fr. Gérard in your prayers! 

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